On Wednesday, Jan. 4, employees at the Mercy Health Partners Hackley campus in Muskegon are scheduled to get a chance to vote themselves out of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The specific branch of the SEIU involved is Healthcare Michigan.
The election, which would involve about 95 workers, has been a long time coming. In March, the workers at the Hackley Campus in Muskegon and the Luther Manor skilled nursing facility in Saginaw filed petitions for the elections with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Their goal was to switch to the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).
The Saginaw workers voted themselves out of Healthcare Michigan in September. However, it took longer for an election to be scheduled for the Muskegon group.
“We're looking forward to the election and we'll win in a landslide,” said Hasan Zahdeh, a Cardiovascular Interventional Technologist and outspoken critic of the SEIU and Healthcare Michigan. “The union filed to try to block the election, but we're going forward with it.”
A major point of contention Zahdeh and other Hackley staff members have with Healthcare Michigan is their claim that the union appeared to be more interested in collecting dues than in serving its members. This includes allegations that the union has often failed to reply to the members' phone calls and emails.
Roughly 30 days prior to the election, Zahdeh's employment at the facility was terminated. He told Capitol Confidential that he is appealing the termination and believes Healthcare Michigan pursued the termination as retribution for his activist efforts to switch unions.
“SEIU was trying to negotiate my job away in late November,” Zahdeh said. “I was terminated on Dec. 2. I've filed a grievance over the termination, but the union seems to be dragging its feet on it.”
Zahdeh said he couldn't discus his termination in detail.
SEIU's Healthcare Michigan is currently the state's largest local health care union, with 55,000 members. The union seemed poised to lose more than 40,000 due-paying members when the state legislature de-funded the Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQ3), as of Oct. 1, 2011.
MQC3 was the alleged employer of the 40,000-plus people described as “home health care workers” pressed into the SEIU through forced unionization under then Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Although MQC3 was de-funded as of Oct. 1, it is still active and dues from the so-called “home health care workers” continue to be collected.
The brief three-year history of Healthcare Michigan has been tinged with corruption and allegations of corruption. Within a couple months of being named President of Healthcare Michigan by Granholm, Rickman Jackson was forced out of office on Oct. 15, 2008.
That story received almost no news media coverage in Michigan – possibly because it was buried beneath stories about the '08 national election. However, it was covered by the Los Angeles Times.
Jackson's replacement, Marge Faville, reportedly has a $163,000 salary, a $47,000 union-provided SUV and has been accused of nepotism.
Zac Altefogt, spokesperson for SEIU's Healthcare Michigan, did not respond to a request for comment.